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Although Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski both found success writing nonfiction --- Halpern has a background in journalism, radio and literature and Kujawinski has written numerous commentaries in the New York Times --- they came together to write their acclaimed YA fiction trilogy Dormia. Now, these brilliant authors have joined forces again to produce NIGHTFALL, a YA novel with a plotline that is sure to leave readers guessing.

Marin and her twin brother, Kana, have lived on the island Bliss since they were born. Growing up, their lives have been relatively normal --- except for the fact that, on their island, they have only known daytime. Rather than day and night interchanging during 24-hour periods, Day and Night each last for 14 years on Bliss. Although Night is coming rapidly, it remains a mystery to Marin and her brother.

When Nightfall comes, the inhabitants of Bliss sail far away to the Desert Lands, where they stay for the 14 years of Night. But, before they can leave Bliss, they must prepare their town in a series of strange rituals that baffle Marin and leave her with a feeling of unease. Having recently grown closer to Kana’s friend Line, Marin is reluctant to set out for the Desert Lands, where her destiny is to separate from both Line and her family. Kana and Line, on the other hand, have better things to worry about than Night. Line has his little brother to look after, andKana has begun to experience things that lead him to question his own sanity. 

A YA novel with a plotline that is sure to leave readers guessing.

When something goes wrong on the day of the inhabitants’ departure, Marin, Line and Kana are trapped on the island that they once called home. As Bliss falls deeper and deeper into the ominous and highly secretive Night, the group uncovers the presence of others on the island, a menacing people who will stop at nothing to eliminate the three exiles. The stranded teenagers must stop worrying about how they will reunite with their families --- all they can hope for is to get out alive.

NIGHTFALL is certainly a unique book, especially in its creative premise. It gets off to a bit of a slow start, but the background provided sets the stage for a lot of important events that occur toward the end of the book. The main characters --- Marin, Kana and Line --- are generally likeable, and the island of Bliss provides a delightfully eerie backdrop for the action of the plot.

After the lengthy setup, the suspense definitely intensifies. As soon as the group is on its own, conflict and fast-paced twists are thrown in left and right, and the characters’ limits, as well as their relationships with each other, are tested. The character development is significant, too; the fact that they have secrets of their own makes for a story with layers of intrigue. 

Perhaps the authors’ cleverest decisions lie in their subtle social commentaries throughout the book. I encourage other readers to develop their own conclusions regarding the objectives of the authors’ subtle remarks. How do communities decide the true owner of any certain expanse of land? For what reason do people follow particular rituals?  Still, the most pressing question posed by Halpern and Kujawinski remains…is ignorance really Bliss?

NIGHTFALL is a great tale for preteens and younger teenagers, and it will surely appeal to those who are intrigued by dystopian fantasy.

Reviewed by Laura T., Teen Board member on September 21, 2015

by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski